Don't vouch for me!
January 3, 2007 12:37 PM   Subscribe

How can I get a coworker to stop vouching for my time or presence?

I have a coworker (in sales) who has a knack for setting up appointments without my knowledge and dragging me into them at the last minute. Today was the final straw - an email to a client saying that she and I wanted to set up a meeting sometime tomorrow, and would they be available. The kicker? She did not ask me if I was even going to be at work let alone available.

To put this in perspective, I have a wife who is due to give birth any time in next week or two (Yay! Go us!) and I don't want her or other coworkers to think they can just spring appointments on me amid last-minute baby/OB appointments.

So, what would be a polite yet firm, professional way to say, "You know, please check with me before you vouch for my time or presence in meetings you request with clients, especially at this point in our pregnancy when we have several appointments and dealings to work through."

Is that too harsh? Any other advice?
posted by fijiwriter to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds good to me. I'd just change "You know" to "in the future".
posted by dobbs at 12:41 PM on January 3, 2007

For expediency, block out appointment times in your calendar. Email colleagues to let them know any planned absences. And email them to let them know your schedule is in flux and that, while you're eager to continue your commitment to the team, your wife is about to have a baby and this has necessitated some impromptu medical appointments. This is perfectly reasonable, in my experience, but it may depend on your work environment.
posted by acoutu at 12:41 PM on January 3, 2007

The next time this happens, explain politely that you made other plans and don't show up at the appointment. Suggest that your coworker should check with you beforehand to avoid such situations.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:41 PM on January 3, 2007

No, it's not too harsh. It sounds perfectly reasonable. Say something exactly like that. If the coworker does not profusely apologize and change her behavior immediately, get back to us for more advice, but I would bet it's not necessary. Congrats on the baby in advance.
posted by dness2 at 12:42 PM on January 3, 2007

I think that's perfectly reasonable.

The only circumstances under which it wouldn't be reasonable, were if your job function somehow required or implied that you always had to be available for appointments on days when you're scheduled to work, etc. But even then, you'd be perfectly within your rights to tell your coworker that there was a good chance you'd be taking some sick/vacation/personal time, so you might not be able to keep appointments not made in advance, and plan accordingly.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:52 PM on January 3, 2007

I agree with dobbs' phrasing exactly. It is not rude at all.

Do you folks have a shared calendar system? In my office we use Outlook to schedule meetings, and before agreeing to a client meeting, I first schedule the time I want to propose with any other coworkers needed and wait for them to accept the meeting (I will note that it's a tentative client meeting as well). Maybe you can propose a similar solution.
posted by catfood at 1:23 PM on January 3, 2007

It's called work/life balance. At other times you may work crazy hours and overtime, but now you have to concentrate on your family. If they want to keep you as an employee, then they had better understand that there is more to life than their job.

(Am bitter because I did not draw this line for my first-born and regret not enforcing the need for family time.)

Do you use a shared calendaring system? Put all of your 'out-of-office' appointments in there, just mark your personal ones as private and then share your calendar.

Be sure to mark them realistically with travel time to/from the office booked as well.
posted by jkaczor at 1:28 PM on January 3, 2007

I don't think that vouch means what you think that it means. While it can mean "promise the performance of" or "guarantee," when used in that context it means that someone who is vouching for you is guaranteeing that you will do what you said that you would do (or that you are what you said that you are), not that they are purporting to act on your behalf.

Congratulations on the forthcoming birth!
posted by jcwagner at 1:37 PM on January 3, 2007

Thanks for the inter-office calendar system suggestion. It's a worthwhile idea, but I've seen my previous employer attempt using it, and only two people (one being me) used it regularly to mark meetings, out of office, leaving for doc appt, etc. And therefore it got shut down for lack of interest or use. Being at present employer for almost two years now, I can guarantee the same situation. I guess that's what you get for small number of coworkers.
posted by fijiwriter at 1:39 PM on January 3, 2007

jcwagner: "vouch" was the first clean/non-four-letter word that came to mind when I saw the email that ticked me off. But thanks for the clarification and possible future use.
posted by fijiwriter at 1:42 PM on January 3, 2007

The "assertive" way to deal with this is dobbs' suggestion.
The "passive-agressive" way is to send an email indicating that you are NOT available to meet at those times.
posted by muddgirl at 1:42 PM on January 3, 2007

And the "hilarious" way is to show up to the meeting in your pajamas.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:59 PM on January 3, 2007

I'm a salesperson who occasionally needs to have colleague with specific knowledge or skills to join in meeting with a customer. It would never occur to me to treat a co-worker with the disrespect yours is showing you. It's worse than rude, it's stupid, as even if your wife wasn't expecting it's perfectly predictable that for any number of other reasons at some point you just won't be able to join the meeting.

So. I'd send an even stronger memo than your suggested one, saying that with your need for preparation time and your other work commitments you must insist that Missy give you three working days notice of all future calls. If that's not done, Missy should be prepared to make other arrangements as you cannot guarantee you'll be able to be there. Further, your specific personal situation at this moment make this even more imperative. Then cc: her boss and yours.
posted by mojohand at 2:46 PM on January 3, 2007

I agree with mojohand that you ought to ask for advance notice. Just pointing out that late-pregnancy is no time for spontaneity will suggest that you don't mind your colleague's tactic at other times. In fact I agree with mojohand's response, period. You can word it in a way that makes it sound as if you'd really, really hate to have to leave your co-worker hanging because you didn't know about a meeting in time to make yourself available.

If she keeps it up, you may have to make sure she's not implying that you are the one screwing up the schedule.
posted by wryly at 3:40 PM on January 3, 2007

I would suggest that it is not necessary to mention your wife's pregnancy in your memo/discussion. A coworker volunteering your presence without your approval isn't really kosher, baby or no. If you say the pregnancy is the reason that you have a problem with her actions, then that implies that it'd be ok for her to do it again once the baby arrives.

Just leave it at:
"In the future, I ask that you check with me before offering my presence at a client meeting. Thank you for this courtesy."
posted by neda at 3:59 PM on January 3, 2007

Congrats on the new addition! Seconding the many suggestions for the "In the future" message and also recommending Google Calendar. My co-workers and I use it to combat this very issue. Anything business-confidential, you can codify somehow, and you can share calendars such that all or just specific items show up only as "Busy"--so your privacy is retained, but co-workers still know you're busy. Just make sure you set the calendar as Not Shared by default and then explicitly share it with individuals--Google now allows you to search any public calendars and you wouldn't believe the *interesting* stuff available for public purview...
posted by jenh at 4:58 PM on January 3, 2007

As others have said, I think you've got the right idea. But don't equivocate. Get rid of the "You know..." and don't mention the pregnancy. Make it very clear that you will not be available should it happen again. Then, the next time it happens (because it will) you escalate to whoever is in charge of your department. Second time you go to HR, or whoever is in charge or your manager. And the third time you don't show up to the appointment. (Or maybe the first or second time.)

When you get the "Where are you?" call, make sure the highest ranking person and/or the client is on the phone and place the blame firmly in your co-worker's lap. Something like "I'm very sorry for the miscommunication, [co-worker] was speaking out of turn and created an appointment for me that I can't meet. Please accept my sincere apologies, etc, etc.

In the case of today's email arrangement, you should have immediately sent a reply to all with a BCC to your manager and possibly HR, with this being the general gist. "Sorry that [coworker] scheduled me for this meeting. S/he is unaware of my schedule and obliged me to something I can not do. I can however make a meeting at [time and place.] Please accept my apologies and in the future please confirm bookings with me personally."
posted by Ookseer at 4:08 AM on January 4, 2007

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